Split tunneling is a feature offered by VPNs that allows you to divide your internet traffic, sending some of it through an encrypted VPN tunnel and the rest through a separate tunnel on the open network. With split tunneling, you have the option to secure selected apps while others can connect normally. This is useful when you need to maintain access to local network devices and access foreign networks simultaneously. Additionally, it can help save bandwidth.
Is split tunneling necessary for your VPN needs, and are there any potential drawbacks? Moreover, which VPNs offer this feature? Find out all you need to know about utilizing split tunneling with your VPN by reading on.
How does VPN Split Tunneling work?
VPN split tunneling is an advanced feature that lets you choose which data you want to encrypt and send through a VPN server, while other data travels through the unencrypted open web. To understand how it works, you first need to understand the basics of a VPN server. By default, your device has a direct connection to the internet.
However, when you use a VPN, your device connects to a VPN server, which then accesses the internet on your behalf. With split tunneling, you have the flexibility to send some of your data through the VPN server while other data travels directly through the open web.
Although using a VPN keeps all of your data encrypted, it can also slow down your internet speed as everything needs to travel through the secure VPN connection. However, split tunneling provides two connections at the same time: a secure VPN connection and an open connection to the internet. This allows you to protect your sensitive data without compromising your internet speeds for other activities.
Types of Split Tunneling
There are different types of VPN split tunneling that you can use, including:
- URL-based split tunneling: This type of split tunneling allows you to select specific URLs that you want to encrypt through the VPN. Typically, this is done with a VPN browser extension.
- App-based split tunneling: Similar to URL-based split tunneling, this type of split tunneling allows you to choose which apps you want to route through the VPN while letting the rest of your traffic travel through your regular network.
- Inverse split tunneling: In contrast to the first two types, inverse split tunneling sends all traffic through the VPN by default. You have to specify which apps and URLs you don’t want to go through the VPN rather than the ones you do.
Pros and Cons of Using VPN Split Tunneling
VPN split tunneling is a feature that has its advantages and disadvantages. Below are some of the reasons why you might want to use it and why you might want to avoid it.
Pros of VPN Split Tunneling
- VPN split tunneling can improve your internet speeds by reducing bottlenecks and conserving bandwidth, as not all your internet traffic has to pass through a VPN server.
- You can access more than one network at the same time, which means you can remain connected to your local network while also connecting to a foreign network or your corporate network. This makes it convenient to perform activities such as downloading files, streaming foreign films, and accessing network printers while maintaining online privacy.
Cons of VPN Split Tunneling
- Using VPN split tunneling is less secure than using a VPN all the time because it bypasses the security measures put in place by your VPN, leaving some of your online activity vulnerable to hackers.
- It takes time to set up the right split tunneling permissions for what you want. Depending on the type of split tunneling you’re using, you have to decide which URLs or apps you want to go through your VPN and which ones you want to go through the open network.
- Not all VPNs offer split tunneling features, and not all of them are available on all operating systems. Some VPNs offer better split tunneling solutions than others.
Is VPN Split Tunneling secure?
VPN split tunneling is not as secure as routing all your traffic through a VPN. However, if you set it up correctly and only route traffic through the open network that you do not want protected, such as downloading a file or accessing your network printer, it can be a reasonable compromise. It allows you to maintain privacy on the traffic that you care about without slowing down your internet speeds.
Although using VPN split tunneling is more secure than not using a VPN at all, it is not advisable to rely on split tunneling for all your security needs, especially if you have a lot of sensitive data that you need to keep private. There is a debate regarding whether split tunneling weakens the overall encryption of your VPN and makes you more vulnerable to hackers. This is simply untrue.
Risks of Split Tunneling
Using VPN split tunneling comes with some risks, which include:
- By bypassing security measures, such as proxy servers, VPN split tunneling can compromise the privacy and security of your online traffic.
- Incorrectly setting up split tunneling or using an insecure VPN service can leave you vulnerable to hackers who can gain access to your information, which your ISP can also see.
- Using split tunneling on an employee’s device when connecting to a corporate network can compromise the security of the entire system if the employee uses a less secure network.
- Split tunneling can allow employees to bypass permissions set up on a corporate network, leading to unauthorized access to blocked sites or downloading suspicious content.
- Corporate IT will not be able to monitor and control what an employee is doing if they use split tunneling, leading to decreased visibility and control over network security.
When to use Split Tunneling?
If you want to protect sensitive data while maintaining your internet speeds, VPN split tunneling can be a good option for you. This is particularly useful if you only need extra security for certain activities, such as online banking or handling sensitive files, while not minding sacrificing some level of privacy on other online tasks. VPN split tunneling can also be helpful for people living overseas who need to bypass internet censorship or government spying, without affecting their other online activities.
How to use Split Tunneling?
Enabling split tunneling is a straightforward process. Simply navigate to the Settings or Options section in your VPN and select the Split tunneling option. Once you have done this, you can manage your VPN connection on a per-app or per-URL basis, choosing which apps or websites you want to use the VPN for and which you want to go through the open network. You may also have the option to add specific apps to the split tunneling list.
How can you disable split tunneling?
To disable split tunneling, what should you do? You can simply go to the Settings or Options in your VPN and turn off the split tunneling feature.
How can you check if your VPN split tunneling is working properly?
To test your VPN split tunneling, what can you do? You can try accessing the URLs or apps you selected and see if they are using the VPN connection. You can also check if you can access region-restricted content or look up your IP address to verify if the traffic is being routed through the VPN or not.
Split Tunneling vs Full Tunneling
The difference between split tunneling and full tunneling is that with full tunneling, all your online traffic goes through your VPN, while with split tunneling, only some of it goes through your VPN, while the rest goes through the open network. Full tunneling is considered more secure because it encrypts all of your online traffic, whereas split tunneling only encrypts a portion of it. However, full tunneling can result in slower internet speeds due to the encryption process.
Dynamic split tunneling configures your split tunneling to use DNS, allowing certain websites or applications to go through a VPN tunnel while others connect normally. It’s also known as URL-based or app-based split tunneling.
Inversive split tunneling is a version of split tunneling where all traffic goes through a secure tunnel except for selected apps. This is different from the usual setup where traffic goes through the ISP and only some applications are routed through a separate tunnel.
To increase the safety of split tunneling, you should only allow trusted apps to bypass the VPN. Any app that is allowed to bypass the VPN creates a hole in your traffic, which could potentially leak your information.
There are no restrictions on which tunneling protocols can be used with split tunneling, so it can be set up with any protocol.
Split tunneling can offer a solution to keeping sensitive data secure without compromising internet speed. However, it does come with a trade-off of reduced privacy compared to using a VPN for all online activity. If maximum online security is a top priority, it is recommended to avoid split tunneling and use a VPN for all traffic. On the other hand, if additional protection is desired without sacrificing speed, split tunneling may be worth considering.